What is risqu? The American definition is "sexually outrageous," implying impropriety. Boo! Lesque at the Historic Iao Theater on Friday night will definitely be of a sexual nature and outrageous, but no more so than a swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated or an episode of "Jersey Shore."
Traditionally burlesque means "in an upside-down style," with a history that has pushed the boundaries of social rules. At the famous Condor Club in San Francisco, there is a state historical landmark plaque naming it the birthplace of topless dancing. Thank you, Gov. Brown, although Salome may beg to differ. Burlesque was a form of musical comedy popular from about 1840 through the 1960s. Vaudeville, cabaret, Broadway follies of the '20s and '30s and Busby Berkley films have their roots in burlesque. A true burlesque artist must be a dancer, singer, costumer, choreographer, producer, director, comedian and magician all in one. A true burlesque performance has more in common with Cirque du Soleil than a striptease. The genre was a relic of the past for several decades until a neo-burlesque revival exploded in Los Angeles during the 1990s with groups like the Pussycat Dolls, whose members over the years have included Ashley Roberts, Nicole Scherzinger, Carmen Electra and Christina Applegate.
In Hawaii, Cherry Blossom Cabaret is the premier burlesque revue, and its performers are thrilled to be back on Maui this weekend. CBC is a mix of clowns, acrobats, singers and seasoned showgirl dancers. The group comprises Kitty Chow, Lola Love, Madame X, Miss Catwings, Miss Fortune and Violetta Beretta.
'Boo! Lesque': Honolulu's Cherry Blossom Cabaret presents an evening of Halloween-themed burlesque Friday
Sheetal Gandhi performs “Bahu-Beti-Biwi” at 7:30 tonight.
Photo provided by the Maui Arts & Cultural Center
Although you may have caught a pared down version of their act in previous appearances at Maui nightclubs, "Boo! Lesque" will offer the full scope of their act from 40-foot aerial performances to lush lighting and special effects. The Honolulu-based cabaret has various influences ranging from vaudeville to B-grade horror, science fiction, film noir, kitsch, political satire and comedic sketches with a torch song or two tossed in.
I asked longtime CBC member Violetta Beretta what inspired her to pursue a career in burlesque.
"I've been a dancer since I was 4, and after so many years I got a little tired of doing other people's choreography. I wanted to do my own. That desire combined with a love for MGM musicals and vaudeville makes burlesque a perfect fit."
"Boo! Lesque": Honolulu's Cherry Blossom Cabaret presents an evening of Halloween-themed burlesque Friday at the Historic Iao Theater. Two shows begin at 8 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 (separate admissions for each show, 21 and over only, valid ID required). Tickets are available at the door or may be reserved in advance by calling the Maui OnStage box office at 242-6969.
"Speakeasy Maui!" begins at 10:30 p.m. Saturday at Casanova in Makawao. Tickets are $10 if purchased before 10:30, $15 after.
Sheetal Gandhi performs "Bahu-Beti-Biwi" at 7:30 tonight in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $12, $25, $35 plus applicable fees; Star Anise Indian Cuisine will prepare the pre-show dinner. To purchase visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at mauiarts.org.
Violetta, who prefers to keep her real identity separate from the character she plays, cites her inspirations as Rita Hayworth, Audrey Hepburn, Mae West and Esther Williams, as well as burlesque legends Sally Rand, Lili St. Cyr, Gypsy Rose Lee and current burlesque superstar Dita Von Tease. Violetta's stage persona was taken from the song "Start Wearing Purple" by a favorite band Golgol, whom she hopes to perform with someday. She has performed all over the world including Paris, London, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland and New York but prefers to make Hawaii her home.
"Hawaii no ka oi! My family, friends and burlesque sisters are all here and it's worth the extra few hundred dollars to live in paradise."
Violetta and her fellow CBC sisters are very excited to be doing their first large-scale show at the Historic Iao Theater.
"It's a great venue with lots of space for the fantastic show we are planning. The audience will be transported into a world of beauty, impossibility, humor and, of course, sensuality."
Later that night, CBC will join Maui's own Kit Kat Club at Casanova in Makawao for a completely different late-night revue, tailor-made for nightclubs.
Arrive early to all of the CBC appearances this weekend as "all full up" is a common bouncer's phrase whenever the talented troupe visits Maui.
"Stunning costumes, amazing feats and laughter await!" says Violetta. Seductive, provocative and at times outlandish, Cherry Blossom Cabaret and Maui OnStage's "Boo! Lesque!" is your ticket to a surreal and spooktacular adventure that will captivate from beginning to end.
If you didn't catch the Talking Stories and Women Helping Women production of "If You Love Me" last weekend, make sure to be on the lookout for their next project.
Director Derek Nakagawa did an exceptional job in staging the story as well as coaching its young cast. Keali'iwahine Hokoana's extremely powerful script examines how domestic violence evolves and the cast members should all be commended for their inspired performances. The production is worthy of a longer run or perhaps a statewide tour. This is truly an exciting time to see so many local playwrights, actors and directors presenting world premiere Maui-made theater. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month; visit whwmaui. net for additional Women Helping Women special events happening this month.
Sheetal Gandhi's magnetically rhythmic "Bahu-Beti-Biwi" (Daughter-in-law, Daughter, Wife) plays tonight in the Castle Theater. Gandhi is a veteran performer whose career has spanned several genres over the past 15 years. She has worked as a creator and performer in Cirque du Soleil's "Dralion," played a leading role in the Broadway production of "Bombay Dreams" and is featured on the original cast album of Stephen Schwartz's "Children of Eden."
On what appears to be a never- ending national tour, her shows have been presented at REDCAT (Los Angeles), Asia Society (New York), Mu Performing Arts (Minneapolis) and ODC Theater (San Francisco). Gandhi's work combines her love for Indian tradition with her equally urgent desire to break from it. The original score is a collaboration with composer Joe Trapanese whose music for the stage has been described as "precise and evocative" by The New York Times. "Bahu-Beti-Biwi" wraps North Indian music traditions and family characters into a contemporary exploration that glides between humorous portraiture and active resistance. Enjoy this one-night-only solo tour de force combining dance, stirring vocalization and percussive music.
Don't miss the final weekend of the hit romantic comedy "Sylvia," an inspired investigation of the nature of love directed by Mark Collmer and starring Jackie Shea in the title role. Performances at the ProArts Playhouse are at 7:30 tonight through Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday, when the run ends. Reserved seats are $20 for adults and $15 for students 18 and younger; (a $15 kamaaina discount is available tonight with Hawaii ID). ProArts Playhouse is located at the Azeka (Makai) Shopping Center in Kihei. Call 463-6550 for tickets or more information. "Sylvia" contains adult language and is not appropriate for children.
"Bride of Rocktober" continues at the Historic Iao Theater Halloween weekend with "Cask of Amontillado," Elliot Baker's one-act musical adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's tale of horror, starring Jerry Eiting, Casey Murphy and Steven Dascoulias. "Cask" plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Oct. 29; and 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30. Tickets are $10.
Halloween night, which falls on Monday, Oct. 31, marks the return of Aly Cardinalli's "Thriller" dancers followed by a free screening of cult classic "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Doors open at 8 p.m. for "Thriller," followed by the "RHPS" screening at 9 p.m. Complete "Rocky Horror" party packs (Toast, party hats, squirt guns and more) will be available for $12 at the theater. For more information, call 242-8680 or visit mauionstage.com.
"Politically Incorrect" observer, comedian and award-winning TV trailblazer Bill Maher will hit Castle Theater on New Year's Day for an 8 p.m. stand-up comedy concert.
Maher has made his mark on HBO's "Real Time" for almost a decade, with 27 Emmys to show for his fearless, controversial brilliance. A former Maui Film Festival honoree, he brought the same attitude to the big screen in "Religulous," a swipe at organized religion.
* Tickets are $45.50, $65.50 and $85.50 plus applicable fees. They are now on sale to MACC members and go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Saturday at the MACC box office, 242-7469 or mauiarts.org. The evening may include adult language and themes.